Personally, as HMANA’s Monitoring Site Coordinator, I spend a lot of time emailing and talking with site leaders and hawk watchers throughout the year, but this is one of few opportunities each year to actually interact face-to-face with many site representatives and HMANA supporters. The Conference in Greenwich offered just that for others, too – a reunion, of sorts, a chance to catch up with friends old and new. Attendees included everyone from first-time conference goers to those who wouldn’t dream of missing one.
There was something for everyone! We had a really nice array of presenters – covering current research and education efforts around New England and across the map. To name a few, we learned about golden eagle tracking and the potential risk from wind power development, osprey telemetry efforts and exciting new data on their migration, navigation, and mortality. We heard about current kestrel nestbox programs in CT, saw-whet banding in MA and Red-tailed Hawk Natal Dispersal in NY.
Education was a major theme of the conference and we were lucky to have so many inspiring educators speak about their programs and how they engage all age groups with raptors – in both the classroom and the field. We heard about using raptor banding as a way to connect with special education students, the use of nest cams in society and how to transform people into supporters, repeat visitors, and eventually informed constituents and conservationists. The education panel discussion covered lots of issues including best ways to connect people to nature.
Field trip destinations included such famous locations as Lighthouse Point Hawk Watch, one of the falcon capitals of the Northeast, and the Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch in nearby New York. Throughout the weekend, people popped out during conference breaks to visit the Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch a few steps outside the Audubon Center for some hawk watching. Among the observations for the weekend were plenty of Accipiters, high streaming Buteos on the move, and two Golden Eagles. Snow Geese and a possible Ross’s Goose were highlights for some observers, and songbirds were spilling south in loose flocks throughout the weekend.
A personal highlight and undoubtedly one for many attendees was keynote speaker, Pete Dunne. Always a treat to hear, Pete took us on a trip down memory lane, sharing stories from his 36 years of hawk watching, as well as some interesting insight about the future of hawk watching – the theme of this very conference.
If that wasn’t enough, we also had a great array of table displays from local organizations and booksellers, live birds from the local rehabilitation center and a chance to try out some binocs and scopes from Swarovski, a sponsor of the conference.
Thank you to everyone who took part in our Counting for the Future conference; presenters, planners, volunteers and attendees. Folks at Audubon Greenwich did a fantastic job hosting the conference; from handling the technical computer setup to food prep. They kept everything running smoothly all weekend long. I left the conference feeling inspired and refreshed about the work HMANA continues to do thanks to its many dedicated members and contributors. The future of hawk watching is bright, indeed.